The Old Halfway House and Matty Marsden Lane Horbury - Who was Matty Marsden?
The Old Halfway House Horbury stands at the junction of Westfield Road and Matty Marsden Lane
but for much of the 19 century, and before, this stretch of Westfield Road was known as Denton
Lane. The building displays signs of several alterations over the years and includes some stonework
along the road frontage which suggests 18 Century beginnings.
The Old Halfway House with Matty Marsden Lane to the right
At that time Denton Lane began at this building and ended in Ossett Parish at the junction of the
roads now known as Horbury Road and Sowood Lane Ossett. Along Denton Lane, closer to Ossett
than to Horbury, stood Sowood Farm which in the late 16 century was occupied by the Denton family
who worked and lived at the farmstead. Sadly tragedy struck the farm and the Dentons and several
more from Sowood and Ossett died in summer 1593 when they contracted the Plague, The Black
The Dewsbury Parish Burial records of the time reveal that thirteen people, including eight Dentons,
were buried of the plague at Denton’s House. This tale is pertinent to the story of Matty Marsden Lane
because it is a reminder that pathways, bridleways, roads and lanes were often named after the
people who lived there or close by. It is also pertinent because it meant that Sowood Farm was no
longer occupied and that new tenants were required to work the farm which some believe was the site
of an earlier Medieval manor
This history is one of several about the Marsden family published by Alan Howe in 2012 including the histories of
Sowood Farm and Rock Cottages
At the end of the 16 and throughout most of the 17 century Sowood Farm would be in decline. The
buildings, almost certainly timber structures, were old and neglected and it was almost 100 years
before any serious efforts were made to renew the farmstead. In the early 1680’s farmer Francis
Marsden (1651-1718) left Penistone parish with his wife and three children and journeyed the 20
miles to Ossett to rent land and a farm “under Storrs Hill” from Thomas Beatson who was considering
a future elsewhere at New Hall Overton.
By 1689 Francis Marsden had built or rebuilt Sowood Farm and he had three more children all of
whom were baptised at Dewsbury. Of his six children, John the eldest and William the youngest were
the only boys. They, their father and their descendants were to leave a significant legacy on the Storrs
Hill landscape in the next 100 years.
Francis Marsden died in 1718 leaving his son John Marsden (1679-1735) to work Sowood whilst
young William (1689-1757) went to farm at Hallcliffe, with his brother in law William Pollard. William
Marsden died a bachelor without issue but John Marsden was a father of ten children including the
eldest child, also named John (1704-1742) and a second son named Joseph Marsden (1714-1758).
Six of John’s ten children were boys.
As was the custom in those days the eldest son inherited most of the father’s estate and so it was in
1735 that John Marsden inherited Sowood Farm leaving the rest of the children to find their own way
in the world and often this meant they must seek their fortunes elsewhere. For Joseph Marsden, the
second son, this meant him leaving Sowood and making a new home in nearby Horbury. When he
died in 1758 Joseph Marsden was referred to as being “of the Township of Horbury “ and in his Will
he left to his wife, Mary, his dwelling house and the land upon which it was built, which was “held
under” (rented from) Anby Beatson of New Hall. This land was on Storrs Hill and was probably the
same land which joseph’s grandfather Francis had worked earlier.
Joseph Marsden had nine children but only three were to survive him. The youngest and only
surviving boy was Francis, or Frank Marsden (1751-1797) who was five years of age when his father
died. It is likely that he continued to live with his mother, Mary (nee Peace) and two other surviving
siblings at their home on Storrs Hill where they eked out a living from farming the land left to them by
their father.
Joseph also left an inventory with his Will which records the contents of his home and whilst it is clear
that his dwelling is in Horbury and on Storrs Hill the actual location is not certain. By 1775 Frank
Marsden is 24 years old and farming about 28 acres of Horbury land including the 4 acre Sallot Royd
field situated on the east side of Denton Road and a 4 acre “close under the house”. The same
1775 record shows that “Mrs Marsden” was also farming land in Horbury mainly in the area close to
the River Calder. The Ossett Valuation 1775 records a Widow Marsden renting land with the same
field names from Edward Oates and it is thought that Mrs Marsden and Widow Marsden were one
and the same – the widow of Francis Marsden of Sowood Farm. The land shown in the 1775 records
for Ossett and Horbury were in the area shown on the map (below) denoted by “These lands are
assessed to both Townships of Horbury and Ossett”.
Francis probably lived close to the Silkstone boundary with Penistone – almost certainly within a mile radius of Oxspring.
The Horbury Tithe 1775
The map (c 1795) is interesting too because it shows a building at the junction of Denton Lane
(Westfield Road) and Matty Marsden Lane and other buildings further south on what is now known as
Matty Marsden Lane but then may have been part of an old, perhaps ancient, route from Storrs Hill
(Stauge Hill) to Horbury town. Note too that the map shows that the lane adjoining Denton Lane is
depicted as a more substantial route than the stretch adjoining Storrs Hill Road. This suggests that
the main access to the buildings shown there was from Denton Lane.
The evidence is that Francis or Frank Marsden was living on Storrs Hill and working land there and on
the east side of Denton Lane. The 1795 Estate Map shows buildings in which he may have been
living. One of those buildings is the one which sometime later would become the Halfway Beerhouse.
By 1778 Frank had married Martha (nee Kirshaw) and by the time of his death in 1797 he was the
father of nine children aged between one and nineteen. The eldest was also called Martha Marsden
(1778-1852) after her mother. Consequently in 1797 Martha Marsden was a widow with nine children.
No evidence has emerged that she re-married after 1797 and it is likely therefore that she remained
living at her home on Storrs Hill. Four of Martha’s children were boys. One died in the 1797, the same
year as his father, two others went off to Cumberland and Bradford, but the youngest boy, Benjamin
Marsden (1790-1867) remained living in Horbury until about 1820 when he moved to Healey in
Benjamin Marsden had eight children and only his eldest child, Francis or Frank Marsden (18171886) was baptised in Horbury before his father moved to Ossett. The 1841 Census records this
Frank living in the only Horbury parish dwelling on Denton Lane. This property can only be the
building which was to become the Halfway Beerhouse. Frank must have left Horbury to live in Ossett
with his parents in about 1820 but he returned to Denton Lane perhaps in 1837 when he married Eliza
The 1848 Horbury Tithe Book records plot numbers 240, 241 and 242 in the ownership of Thomas
Marsden (Frank’s younger brother) and in the occupation of Frank Marsden. The reason for this is
perhaps apparent in the events of 1851 recorded below. The plots are described as “House & Yard,
Garden, Croft and Shop”. The 1857 Tithe Book shows that ownership has passed to George
Thompson but the occupier is Frank Marsden suggesting that he and his family were still living there.
The description of the three plots numbered 240, 241 and 242 is Halfway Beer House, Cottage, Cow
House etc, Garden and croft.
By 1851 Frank Marsden is in York Castle Debtors’ Prison and the London Gazette of 6 June 1851
records that Frank Marsden (sued with John Wilson) late of Horbury...out of business, a prisoner for
debt...cloth manufacturer in co-partnership with John Wilson.. under the style of Messrs Wilson and
Marsden and also in co-partnership with David Clafton, Joseph Wilby and John Wilson in Power and
Machinery in the Victoria Spinning and Slubbing Mill...
Frank’s wife, Eliza, and their children continued to live at the dwelling in 1851 (which by now has an
address of Westfield Road) but by 1857 the property is named the Halfway Beer House and it has the
same description in the 1861 Census. By this time Francis has been released and is working as a rag
grinder and living on Horbury Road Westgate Wakefield where he was to spend of his life. He died in
In 1866 the following press report from the Leeds Mercury on 1 February 1866 suggests that the
Halfway Beer house has changed its name to The Green Man
Even the tragic case of Nathaniel Illingworth has a Marsden connection for he was the great great
grandson of Francis Marsden who built Sowood Farmhouse in 1689. He was also married to Fanny
Clafton who may have been a relative of the David Clafton who was a business partner of Francis
Marsden pre 1851.
The 1871 Census records the Public House once again as the Halfway House suggesting that The
Green Man name had not long survived. The origin of the name will be lost in time but the change of
name may have coincided with the arrival of the landlord, John Nichols, from Sleaford Lincolnshire
who, in 1861, describes himself as a fish dealer and beer house keeper. Was The Green Man a
reminder to him of an earlier time in his life when he may have had an uncomfortable time learning
the fish trade whilst working the boats?
By 1874 the lane,much to the annoyance of the Horbury Local Board, was being used by their Ossett
equivalent to tip household refuse suggesting that the adjacent quarry had, by then, come to the end
of its useful life . This must surely have resulted in the strengthening of the lane’s surface to allow
vehicular (horses and carts) access and egress to the tip. There may also have been some widening
to the lane although the 1795 map suggests some width to the lane even in those early days.
What can be made from the above information as it relates to the dwelling which became the Halfway
beerhouse between 1851 and 1857 and does this have any bearing on the name of the adjacent
Matty Marsden Lane?
It is certain that Frank Marsden (1817-1886) was living there by 1841 and he would have been there
in 1851 were it not for a prior engagement at York Prison. It is also likely that Frank was born there
like his father Benjamin Marsden (1790-1866) who probably lived there until his move to Ossett in
about 1820. Benjamin’s father, Frank Marsden (1751-1797) was working 28 acres of land on Storrs
Hill and Denton Lane in 1775 and living in the house with his wife Martha Marsden and nine children
including his eldest daughter who was also called Martha.This would be the house that Frank’s father,
Joseph Marsden (1714-1758) mentioned in his Will as being on Storrs Hill and rented from Anby
Beatson of New Hall.
The building, now known as the Old Halfway House is shown on the Manor of Wakefield Estate map
1795 and today displays several building styles suggesting several extensions and some re-modelling
over the years. Parts of the building do however suggest 18 Century construction and it is possible
that this section of the building was constructed in about 1739 in readiness for Joseph Marsden to
move into with his new bride, Mary Peace, who he married in Horbury on 5 January 1740.
The late Ken Bartlett, the renowned Horbury historian had this to say about Matty Marsden Lane.
Neville Ashby from articles published in the Ossett Observer
Ken Bartlett had it almost correct but just 30 years or so ago he didn’t have the resources available to
him that can be accessed in the 21 century. Ken was searching for a Matthew or Matilda Marsden
but, not surprisingly, he couldn’t find one. That’s because they don’t exist. However a search of the
several Family history websites now available will reveal many a Martha who is also known as Matty.
Closer to home in Horbury the name Matty was also in use in the late 18 /early 19th Century
For example in November 1804 William, the son of William Rayner and Matty was baptised at
Horbury. In January 1803 the same William Rayner and Martha had their son Joshua baptised at
Horbury. They had only the two children it seems.....unusual except that on 4th December 1805
Martha Rayner wife of William Rayner was buried at Horbury. This demonstrates that Matty was an
alternative name for Martha and also that the name was in use in Horbury.
Even Wikipedia has it that Matty is an alternative name for Martha.
This study has revealed two women called Martha Marsden. The first was Martha Marsden, the wife
of Frank Marsden (1751-1797) living on Storrs Hill from about 1780 and probably at the dwelling
which became the Halfway beerhouse. Martha was widowed in 1797 when she was mother of nine
children, one a babe in arms and the eldest, also called Martha Marsden (1778-1852). This fact alone,
a 39 year old widow with nine young children, may have been sufficient for her to be remembered in
the name of the lane adjacent to her home.
That she also had a daughter named Martha Marsden may have led to one of them becoming known
as Matty to differentiate one from the other. Martha junior married in 1802 so it is likely that the two
Martha Marsdens lived there for (at least) 20/25 years The lane itself is likely to be an 18 century
creation, linking Denton Lane to an old, perhaps ancient, route across Storrs Hill to Horbury town.
This lane would also have allowed access to the dwellings on this old route which are shown on the
1795 Estate map. Although no evidence of this has emerged, it is also possible that some or all of the
18 century dwellings shown on the 1795 map along the lower stretch of Matty Marsden Lane were
built by and occupied by the Marsden family. The lane, already established by 1795, would thus be
well used by the Marsdens and this too may have been further reason for the naming of the Lane.
Lanes need names and what better description than one which links a person’s abode to the location
of the lane. Matty Marsden lived at the junction of Denton Lane and a lane with no name. Are these
the reasons why it became Matty Marsden Lane?
A final comment and acknowledgement. Horbury history owes a huge debt to the tireless and quite
remarkable work of the late Ken Bartlett, a man very much ahead of his time. Had he lived longer he
would have found the answer he sought much sooner than 2012. As it was the transcription of the
documents he termed “Horbury Fields” was part of his legacy to us and one which has been the light
along the way.
This research and these findings are a nod to him, and to my grandson, Jack Wild, who whilst walking
with me along Matty Marsden Lane one day in August 2012 insisted I discover Matty’s identity. For
Ken and Jack........this is my best effort.
Alan Howe
November 2012